Black-White Differences in Social, Psychological, and Medical Correlates of Depression in the United States

Document Type: Editorial


Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA/Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health (CRECH), School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA


While Blacks have lower risk for MDD, they report higher levels of depressive symptoms. This is partially because Blacks do not have the same access and trust to the health care system. As a result, their MDD is commonly left as untreated. In line with the above note, the cross-sectional association between MDD and depressive symptoms is stronger for Blacks than Whites. This, however, is not the case for the longitudinal association between depressive symptoms and MDD. While baseline depressive symptoms predict future MDD risk for Whites, such symptoms do not have any predictive role for Blacks. Blacks with depressive symptoms maintain high levels of hope and also positive emotions. The Black-White differences in depression – dysfunctional cognitive elements and also higher concordance of positive emotions and depressive symptoms may explain why depressive symptoms, depression, and other negative emotions increase risk of chronic disease or obesity in Whites but not Blacks. The same may also explain why depression is linked to inflammation in Whites but not Blacks, given the undoing potential of positive emotions.